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Monday, 23 May 2011 13:30

Faultlines: Exploring the Pathology of Abuse

Written by Connie Bollinger
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gitana-inc.org
gitana-inc.org

With an unflinching and sympathetic eye, playwright Lee Patton Chiles offers us a window into the hidden world of marital abuse.

In India, beautiful, University educated Niragha(Anita Shastri) dreams of earning a Master's degree in literature. Her loving Father Rishi (Ashok Mallyas) dreams only of finding her a suitable husband. The highest goal for Indian women, we're told, is still marriage. Niragha, with no interest at all in marriage, turns down every suitor Father brings her until he convinces her that if she doesn't marry soon, the family will be in disgrace and little sister, Amala (lovely Marium Ahmad) will never find a husband either.

 In America, ambitious Indian born Daman (Christopher Lyons) decides its time for him to take a wife. Self centered and narcissistic, he has no patience for wooing or choosing a "love match", so he sends word to his mother in India to begin the process of arranging a marriage for him. He is coming to India for a month and fully expects to be married by the time he returns to the U.S. Although she is not on the "list", Daman sees Niragha in the library and his predatory nature is ignited. He is bent on having her. Niragha relents to his suit because he promises she can continue her studies in the United States. Daman feels that a well educated wife will be an asset to his own success.

Christopher Lyons gives us a frightening look into the mind of Daman, a man who struggles with his obsessive need to dominate, his own self hatred, and his craving to have admiration and love from everyone he meets. And yet, somehow, Lyons made me feel a bit sorry for Daman, a testament to Lyons' acting skills.

Daman's physical abuse of his bride begins only two days after the marriage. Daman's younger brother, kind and gentle Sharma, (played by Gregory Cuellar) witnesses the incident and advises Niragha to be "clever" in dealing with her new husband so that she can possibly avoid too many further events. The familiar shifting of blame to the victim, no matter how well meaning, made my skin crawl.

Alone and frightened in her new American home, Niragha gains friendship and help from her faculty advisor/neighbor Eric(James Canfield)and a sweet classmate, Jayna(Janelle Johnson). Indeed, when Daman finally loses control of his temper completely, Eric and Jayna step in to literally save Niragha's life.

Everything about this play is remarkable and touching from the script to the performances to the set design to the costumes to the beautiful traditional dances. The use of modern dance to express what Niragha and Daman are truly feeling in their souls but are not allowed to speak was genius.

Praise also for two fine young performers, Daniel Johnson and Jackson Denis. The boys play American brothers Dakota and Truman and make for a fine bit of light heartedness. Entirely at ease and natural on the stage, these two have loads of promise as performers for many years to come.

Playwright Lee Patton Chiles has already received several Kevin Kline nominations for various plays focusing on the struggles of every day people to make sense of and survive the world around them. I think Faultlines, should surely be a winner.

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